Henley & Partners recently launched its annual Visa Restrictions Index for 2016. In its 11th year, the index gives a global ranking of countries based on the freedom of travel for their citizens.
Of the 199 countries whose visas are ranked, only 21 have retained their position from last year. While this indicates many changes, no country dropped more than three positions.
Germany remained in the top spot on the index, with visa-free access to 177 countries out of a total of 218. Sweden also retained their second place ranking with access to 176 countries. The United Kingdom, who shared first place honors with Germany last year (both scored 173), dropped to third this year, joining Finland, France, Italy, and Spain, all with access to 175 countries.
The four countries making the greatest gains on the index are: Tonga, rising 16 spots; Palau, climbing 20 places; Colombia, moving up by 25; and Timor Leste, surging ahead by 33. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iraq, meanwhile, once again, land at the bottom of the index, maintaining their label of “worst passports in the world.”
Investment migration continues to show its relevance in the steady growth of those countries offering residency and citizenship-by-investment programs. These same countries continue to perform strongly, and all have positioned themselves in the top 30 slots on the index.
Portugal’s Golden Visa Program is one of the most attractive residence-by-investment programs and is in the sixth position on the 2016 Index, this year gaining two countries, for a total of 172 countries its citizens can visit without a visa.
Malta, with the world’s most successful citizenship-by-investment program (the program has raised over 1 billion euros since its inception), has also added two countries since last year for a total of 168, making it the eighth most powerful passport in the world.
Europe’s other leader in the citizenship-by-investment program category, Cyprus, also added two countries to its list of visa-free-access destinations. They now rank 17th on the index with visa-free access to 159 countries.
In the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda leads the region, ranking in 30th place, and its passport-holders may now travel to 134 countries visa-free.
Marco Gantenbein, Managing Partner at Henley & Partners, was quoted, “The continued development of these countries demonstrates the critical nature of good visa-free access to countries offering investor migration programs. In turn, this speaks of the importance of due diligence in such programs, since the reputation of a country’s passport and its relationship with other countries is only as good as its newest citizens.”